Monday, April 24, 2017

on the Walsh/Robison interview with Mark Driscoll, part 1: on whether or not Mark really "didn't know Jesus" in his youth, how and when and why he got saved, and on how Driscoll told CT he was a virgin when he met Grace in spite of saying otherwise in Real Marriage

As has become habit with these extended posts, these are published in reverse order to facilitate easier reading.

It might be difficult to find the interview Mark Driscoll had with Sheila Walsh and Randy Robison on Life Today. It would have been the April 6, 2017 interview, if it were currently up.  This transcript may only be up for so long.

[WtH 5-1-2017 

that video has been down at for a while, it turns out, without any clear explanation as to why, but the video remains up at ...

for those who want to read it]

However, as noted earlier at this blog, the narrative Mark Driscoll presented to Walsh and Robison about the history of Mars Hill was sufficiently different enough from what can be documented about Mars Hill over the last twenty some years that it has warranted a long-form analysis.  Let's assume for the sake of the record that Walsh and Robison acted in good faith, an assumption that not everyone in the blogosphere will necessarily embrace.  Even if people have doubts, the nature of the narrative Driscoll shared would still merit a detailed analysis.  So we'll be examining the statements in the interview and comparing them, at length, to the existing extent public record account of Mars Hill from Mark Driscoll's own writing and teaching, as well as from participants in the events connected to church governance crises and the bylaws documents themselves. 

PART ONE: On two preliminary points—“Didn’t know Jesus” and “At 19 got saved reading that Bible”
Week 15: Mission: Rescue Life
Randy Robison and Sheila Walsh
Mark Driscoll

Mark: I grew up in Seattle. My dad was a union drywaller; oldest of five kids. Didn't know Jesus. In high school, at 17, I met a really sweet adorable gal, a pastor's daughter; gave me a Bible. At 19 got saved reading that Bible; 21, married that girl. My rule is always: a gal buys you Bible, buy her a ring. Call it a deal. So I married her at 21.

Let’s start with the “Didn’t know Jesus” part. This account may need some nuances provided by Mark Driscoll’s earlier public statements which will also, by extension, touch on “At 19 got saved reading that Bible”.  For instance, take this sermon from 2002:

Part 4 of Galatians
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Galatians 3:1-14
June 02, 2002


And my misunderstanding was this: I thought that as long as you believed in God and you were a good person, then God would love you and you would go to Heaven. That’s what I thought. And if you would have asked me, you know, when I was up until the age of 18 or 19, “Are you a Christian?” I would’ve said, “Yes, and a Christian is someone who believes in God and is a good person.” And that’s what I thought. Until a drunken frat guy shattered my world with one decent question, and God uses anything. He used a drunken frat guy, who was like a seventh year sophomore to absolutely upset my theological worldview.

I did not drink because I made a list of rules to declare myself self-righteous. So, I said, “Why, I’m gonna be a good person.” I made this little list of things that I thought a good person should be. I won’t lie. I won’t steal. I won’t cheat. I won’t drink. I won’t smoke. I won’t, you know, beat anyone up who doesn’t deserve it. I won’t – I had this list of things that I would do and not do, and I would declare myself “good.” That is the essence of works and self-righteousness. That was basically my worldview. “I make my rules, and I live up to them. I’m a great guy.”

So, I had these rules, and one of my rules was I won’t drink because then God will look down and say, “Well, I’m going to pick Mark for my team because he’s such a great guy.” After all, I was.

So, what happened was I was at a frat party in college, which is not the typical place that God shows up in powerful, illuminating, theological acumen. But this drunken frat guy came up, and he said, “Here. Drink a beer.” And I said, “No, I don’t drink.” He said, “Why?” I said, “I’m a good person.” (Laughter)

And he said, “Well, why do you want to be a good person?” I said, “Because I believe in God, and I’m a good person.” He said, “Well, Jesus drank,” which is about the only part of the Bible he really knew. That and, “Thou shalt not judge.” He put those two verses together, and he’d come up with alcoholism. But anyway. (Laughter)

I said, “No, I’m a good person.” He said, “So, how do you know you’re gonna go to Heaven?” I said, “I know I’m gonna go to Heaven because I’m a good person.” And he asked this question that shattered my world. He was basically mocking me, trying to get me to drink. And he said, “Well, how good do you have to be to go to Heaven?” I thought, “I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t know.” And he said, “Do you have to be good all the time? And if you’re not good some days, does that cancel your bad days, and who makes the rules, and how do you know what’s good and bad?” He was just sort of in a drunken stupor rambling, but it was a really good question, I felt, particularly considering his condition. [emphasis added]

I said, “I don’t know,” and I started thinking about that. How good do I have to be? How moral do I have to be, and who determines the morality? Do my good days cancel my bad days, and did my sins cancel my obedience? And I started getting really muddy about where I was at. Up until this point I thought, “I’m a good guy. I’m a great guy.” And then I realized, “Well, maybe I’m not good enough.”


And so, what I decided was, “I’ll read the Bible to get all the rules, and then I’ll do them to make sure that I’m a good guy.” Okay. Now my wife, she was my girlfriend at the time. Moral of the story is if a woman gives you a Bible, give her a ring. She gave me this Bible as a graduation present from high school, and I started reading the Bible.


Perhaps Driscoll felt he had grounds to consider himself a Christian because, as he used to joke, he didn’t drink or smoke and he didn’t beat up anyone who didn’t deserve it. He never cheated on any of the girlfriends he was in relationships with.  Yet at this point we can see that the question of whether or not he “didn’t know Jesus” may depend on what a person means in asking this question.  After all, by his own account Mark Driscoll was an altar boy for a while.
September 30, 2013
An arty, jock, altar boy

I was raised Catholic and served for a few years as an altar boy while attending Catholic grade school.  I've got an artistic bent. I like architecture, interior design, music, visual arts, etc. Growing up I was an odd mix: a jock who played a lot of sports, a fighter who got in more than a few brawls, and an artist who liked to sketch, draw, and experiment in various mediums. I appreciated the artistry of the Catholic Church. Stained glass, paintings, colors, icons, statues, candles--it was all quite beautiful.

Some Catholics are born-again, Jesus-loving Christians. I was not one of them.  I was a spiritual religious guy until Jesus saved me at the age of 19.  ...

Maybe so, but servers (aka altar boys and girls and so on) are expected to have an understanding of the liturgical significance of the rites they assist in.  And yet when Mark Driscoll recounted his youth in a 1992 editorial he emphasized that he was not raised in a fundamentalist Christian home. It might be more precise to say Mark Driscoll grew up Catholic and grew up Catholic in a way that would be counted as “not really knowing or believing in Jesus” to a broad range of low church American Protestants. In an October 1992 editorial Driscoll recounted how he became a Christian trying to win an argument with a “Bible-thumper”.  Driscoll’s editorial is a “I tried to prove Christianity wrong and converted” narrative of a fairly pedestrian and predictable sort; what stands out in his The Evergreen editorial was what he left out, that he had a girlfriend who was a pastor’s daughter who was coming back to a point of taking her Christian faith seriously and had given him a Bible as a gift.


Something else that went unmentioned in the 1992 editorial that Driscoll has mentioned about his time in Catholic church life was that he had a negative impression of the role of the pastor or priest because Christians seemed feminine.

… The last thing I ever thought I would be was a pastor, because growing up Catholic, the pastor is a guy who lives at the church, is flat broke, is committed to never having sex, and walks around in a dress. So pretty much, that was a last career choice of all possible career choices. [emphasis added]


Joe: When he got into high school, he was always into student body president, journalist on a newspaper, redid the high school— somehow or another, he got involved in that. He was always into something.


Yeah, I was a nice—at least I thought—nice, moral Catholic guy. I had a pretty bad temper, did well in school and sports, was dating Grace as a high school student, sleeping with her. She was a pastor’s daughter. So definitely, life was put together wrong.

That was a statement from the 2011 series God’s Work, Our Witness, a decade earlier we see Driscoll said a bit more. The impression he had of the Catholic priest he remembers was not just that the guy was committed to never having sex and walking around in a dress, but that the priest was gay:
Part 5 of Proverbs
Pastor Mark Driscoll | October 28, 2001


You know why schools, Christian schools, Christian churches, Christian ministries are primarily female? Because the church is feminine, and masculine men don’t feel comfortable there. It’s true. The church has adopted, I would say, inordinately the bride metaphor from scripture. Women are very comfortable from that. Men don’t understand that. It’s very hard for a man to think of himself as a bride, wearing a white gown and walking down the aisle. If he’s very comfortable with that, he has significant issues. He has much to work through. And so, there are different metaphors in scripture that men and women will gravitate toward in regards to their relationship with God. For me, this is – this is a very important issue. I was raised in south Seattle, in the ghetto, behind the Déjà vu, next to the airport. Okay? If you’ve been there, you can repent and don’t go there anymore. [emphasis added] But, for the rest of you, if you don’t know where it’s at, that’s fine. It’s – it’s an interesting neighborhood. Gang-banging, drive-by’s, drugs, prostitution, the green river killer was there, the whole thing. One of the local elementary schools would have to go out on Monday and take the used condoms and the syringes off the playground before the kids came. And so, I was the oldest of five kids. And I grew-up in a blue-collar, hard-working, union family. My dad’s name is Joe, and he hangs drywall. Okay?

My dad’s a guy. My brothers are guys. I’m a guy. We love each other. Things are good. I come from a decent home. And one my biggest fears in high school was becoming a Christian, because I thought immediately I would have to become very feminine. ‘Cause all the guys I knew who were Christians were just very – very soft, very tender, very sort of weak guys. And I thought, “That’s just not gonna work.” So, I wouldn’t go to youth group. They tried to drag me to – I was in a Catholic church and our priest was gay, and I didn’t get this guy at all. He would wear silk shirts and silk pants, and he would wear low – basically, like, bathroom slippers all the time. [emphasis added] And he would tan all year. So, he had a nice bronze glow.

And I didn’t relate to this guy at all, not in the least. I don’t – I don’t – silk? Just – I don’t get that. And so, he – he was this very, very feminine guy. And they tried to – I tried to go to church with my family and I didn’t get it. So, they tried to take me into this youth thing, and it just didn’t work. So, I just left. I said, “That’s it. I’m gone. There’s no men here.” [emphasis added]  ‘Cause it was all older ladies, women and children. You couldn’t find a guy anywhere near it, and that’s not unusual. When I came to Christ in college, reading the Bible, and realized the gospel, and I went looking for a church; and a few of the first churches I went to were just completely uncomfortable. It was like walking into Victoria’s Secret. The décor, at first, it’s like fuchsia and baby blue, and there’s pink, and it’s just like, “What in the world has happened here?” And then the songs are very emotive, and it’s like love songs to Jesus, like we’re on a prom together or something. And I didn’t get that at all, ‘cause that made me feel real odd. And then – and then the guy preaches, and he’s crying and all this stuff, and trying to appeal to my emotions. And I was just like, “This didn’t work.” So, I kept looking for a church. So, I found a church where the guy got up and he said, “This week I was out bow-hunting.” He used that as an illustration. So, I became a member of that church. True story. I didn’t have any theological convictions, but if a guy killed things then I – he could be my pastor. [emphasis added]

So the young Driscoll’s impression of men in Christian ministry was that they seemed to be weepy gay guys wearing silk shirts who cried a lot while talking about their feelings.  As nominal a Christian as Driscoll claimed to have been, one possibility for how he could have gained such a vivid sense of why he didn’t want to be in ministry could have come from his time as an altar boy. 

There’s something else worth mentioning about Mark Driscoll meeting Grace Martin, which is that even though Real Marriage, the book published by Mark and Grace Driscoll in 2012, detailed how neither of them were virgins when they met each other, this did not stop Mark Driscoll from saying, for the record, that they were both virgins when they met in a Christianity Today interview in 2012.

Interview by Katelyn Beaty and Marlena Graves/ January 5, 2012


Is there tension in teaching sexual purity before marriage while encouraging frequent and wonderful sex within marriage?


M: No, and for us, we sinned, quite frankly. We were virgins when we met and were sleeping together as high-school boyfriend and girlfriend. Then Grace came back to Christ, and I came to Christ in college, so we had to stop sinning sexually. I'd say if we both could go back and rewrite history and change one thing, that would probably be the thing we would change. [emphasis added] But we did repent and met with our pastor. And then we did get married, between our junior and senior years of college

The statement that both Mark Driscoll and Grace Martin were both virgins when they met each other could not have been more flatly contradicted by the text of Real Marriage:

Real Marriage
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 978-1-4002-0383-3
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)

Page 7

Neither Grace nor I was a virgin when we met, and before long we were dating and sleeping together, which continued even after she went off to college while I was finishing high school. [emphasis added]

page 9-10
To be honest, fornicating was fun. I liked fornicating. To stop fornicating was not fun. But eventually Grace and I stopped fornicating, got engaged, and were married between our junior and senior years of college.

I assumed that once we were married we would simply pick up where we left off sexually and make up for last time. After all, we were committed Christians with a relationship done God's way.
But God's way was a total bummer. My previously free and fun girlfriend was suddenly my frigid and fearful wife. She did not undress in front of me, required the lights to be off on the rare occasions we were intimate, checked out during sex, and experienced a lot of physical discomfort because she was tense. [emphasis added]

Before long I was bitter against God and Grace. It seemed to me as if they had conspired to trap me. I had always been the "good guy" who turned down women for sex. In my twisted logic, since I had only slept with a couple of women I was in relationships with, I had been holy enough, and God owed me. I felt God had conned me by telling me to marry Grace, and allowed Grace to rule over me since she was controlling our sex life. [emphasis added] I loved Grace, but in the bedroom I did not enjoy her and wondered how many years I could white-knuckle fidelity. ... We desperately needed help but didn't know where to turn. Bitterness and condemnation worsened.

page 13
... When I discovered her sin against me and that she had punished me with resulting years of sexual and emotional denial, I felt like a real fool, and my world crashed down around me. It seemed everything I had been striving for since I was a little boy was in vain. In idolizing marriage, I ended up demonizing Grace and doubting God.

page 14
I grew more chauvinistic. I had never cheated on a girlfriend, but I never had a girlfriend who did not cheat on me. And now I knew that included my own wife. So I started to distrust women in general, including Grace. [emphasis added] This affected my tone in preaching for a season, something I will always regret.

Given how thoroughly Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book stated otherwise it remains a mystery why Mark Driscoll would have told writers in an interview with Christianity Today that both he and Grace were virgins when they met.  To have done so was to paradoxically rewrite history while expressing the wish to go back and rewrite history in a different way by having chosen a different path.   That Mark Driscoll gave such drastically different answers as “yes” and “no” on the question of whether he and Grace were virgins when they first met each other invites a question as to why he could, or would, give such radically different answers on such a simple topic of inquiry.  As we’ve seen from different accounts Mark Driscoll has given about how and why he became a Christian there seemed to be room for contextual emphasis depending on the rhetorical or polemical aims of a specific sermon or interview.

 There might be room for debate and interpretation as to whether he really “knew Jesus” in the way a low church American Protestant would define knowing Jesus. There’s hardly any wiggle room on whether he was or wasn’t a virgin when he met Grace Martin. Either he was or he wasn’t, right?  Yet on such a basic question Driscoll demonstrated for the record he was capable of giving two very different answers depending on the context in which he was communicating.

If there’s room for questions as to how sincerely Driscoll was or wasn’t an observant Catholic there’s considerably less room to doubt the scope of his ambitions for Mars Hill when he co-founded it, a topic we shall now turn to.

on the Walsh/Robison interview with Mark Driscoll, part 2: establishing Mark Driscoll's ambitions to "world domination" in his own words, and his account of how once Mars Hill was stable in 2002 he decided to blow things up because he was bored
That video has since become 404 since April 6, 2017.  This may be available for a little longer.
PART TWO: The founding of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll’s jocular self-expressed desire for world domination

Having looked at the matter of the extent to which Mark Driscoll’s Catholic upbringing constituted a retroactive self-assessment on Driscoll’s part that he “didn’t know Jesus”; and having looked at the range of emphases and narratives surrounding his conversion narrative(s); we can turn to his recent account of the early years co-founding what was once called Mars Hill.
Sheila: It is what one does, people -- it is what one does.

Mark: At 22 we graduated; 25 we started a Bible study trying to reach primarily young College-educated singles in what was at the time among the nation's least churched cities. In the early years we were broke and we didn't have kids and I was working a job and didn't think it would amount to anything. Eventually, in God's grace, God did some remarkable things through some wonderful people. We saw about 10,000 people baptized. We saw the church grow to 15,000 on a typical Sunday. We saw 15 locations in five states, just kind of superseded all expectations.

This is more or less in line with what Mark Driscoll shared with one Brian Houston in the years after Driscoll’s resignation from Mars Hill:

I've made a lot of mistakes and one of them was going too fast. There's the Lord's calling and there's the Lord's timing and I should have waited longer. I should have been under godly spiritual authority, for Grace and I to be under a godly couple, that was [a] senior pastor, so that we could learn and grow. I, I, my character was not caught up with my gifting and I did start too young. And I believe God called us to start the church and he was very, very, very gracious to us, uh, but had I to do it over again I would not look at a 25-year old and say, "Do what I did."

... We went into the urban core and we felt, specifically, called to go after young, college-educated males. That was really my heart. I wanted everybody to meet Jesus but I felt particularly if we were gonna make in the city and the legacy of families and, you know, the way that women and children and culture treated, that getting young men to love Jesus would be paramount.
So that was really the focus and I didn't think the church would amount to much. [emphasis added] The first three years we didn't collect a salary; it was very small; we met at night; we moved a lot because we kept losing our rental location; the offices were in our house, so it wasn't a big deal and we didn't anticipate that it would become what it ultimately did.

We’ll get to the fact that Driscoll was the youngest of three men who co-founded Mars Hill eventually, but first let’s get back to Driscoll’s comment to Walsh and Robison on how he was working a job.

Unfortunately “… I was working a job and didn’t think it would amount to anything” is so divergent from what can be documented as being the case about Mark Driscoll in the earliest years of Mars Hill it requires an extensive correction from both Mark Driscoll’s own writings and from others.

One of the things that isn’t altogether certain is how many jobs Mark Driscoll was working in those formative mid-1990s years in which Mars Hill was founded.  At least one person who has blogged about the early years of Driscoll working toward ministry wrote the following:

Eons later, in the early 90s, I was chatting with a sales clerk in Norman Baggs'  book store out on 85th & Greenwood (Seattle) — this young man was a voracious reader, working two jobs to support his young family and involved with some innovative street ministry in Seattle — some how we got talking about The problem of evil.  I told him to read John Frame's chapter on it in Apologetics to the Glory of God. The next time I saw him in the book store he told me he had read Frame but considered his treatment of  The problem of evil  "a cop out". Meanwhile, he had laid hands on a copy of A. Plantinga's book and was reading it and was impressed with Plantinga's argument. I had read some of Plantinga but wasn't excited about it. I think I had perhaps two more discussions with the young man before he became unreachable[1] . [said person is described as being Mark Driscoll]

When I first met Driscoll he was clerking in a bookstore in Greenwood (North Seattle). I had heard about him. He makes a lot of noise. I knew his father-in-law very well when I was in my teens and 20s but I was long gone when Mark became a regular visitor in that household. When Driscoll came back from college and started doing "street talk" on the radio I would tune in now and then and listen. I noted right away that Driscoll was a generation bigot. He hated 'hippies' with a passion. I suppose this has something to do with growing up blue collar in Seattle which is a northern clone of San Francisco. The war between the hard hats and the flower generation was still in progress when Driscoll was born into the world of hard hats. In the end the hard hats lost the war. The flower children and the neo-pagans took over the culture and nowhere is that more evident than in Seattle. So Driscoll hates what he calls 'hippies' because his people lost the war and now he would like to put the culture back where it was in 1955 and it just isn't going to happen. 

So Mark Driscoll may have been working a couple of jobs in the early years of Mars Hill.  There’s room for uncertainty on that matter.

Where there is very little room for uncertainty is the matter of how much ambition Mark Driscoll had about what he was co-founding.


Part 22 of 1st Corinthians
Pastor Mark Driscoll | 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 | June 18, 2006
Here’s the tricky part: Figuring out what your idols are. Let me give you an example. Let’s say for example, you define for yourself a little Hell. For you, Hell is being poor. For you, your definition of Hell is being ugly. For you, your definition of Hell is being fat. For you, your definition of Hell is being unloved. For you, your definition of Hell is being unappreciated. That fear of that Hell then compels you to choose for yourself a false savior god to save you from that Hell. And then you worship that false savior god in an effort to save yourself from your self-described Hell. So, some of you are single. Many of you are unmarried. For you, Hell is being unmarried and your savior will be a spouse. And so you keep looking for someone to worship, to give yourself to so that they will save you. For some of you, you are lonely and your Hell is loneliness, and so you choose for yourself a savior, a friend, a group of friends or a pet because you’ve tried the friends and they’re not dependable. And you worship that pet. You worship that friend. You worship that group of friends. You will do anything for them because they are your functional savior, saving you from your Hell. That is, by definition, idolatry. It is having created people and created things in the place of the creator God for ultimate allegiance, value and worth.

So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to get incredibly personal. This will get painfully uncomfortable if I do my job well. I’m going to ask you some probing questions. We’re going to try to get to the root of your idols and mine and I am guilty. I was sitting at breakfast this morning. My wife said, “So what is your idol?” I was like, “Hey, I’m eating breakfast! Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk about that.” I’m the pastor. I preach. I don’t get preached at. Eating bacon. Don’t ruin it. You know, it’s going good., And I told her, I said, “Honey, I think for me, my idol is victory.” Man, I am an old jock. More old than jock, lately, but I – I’m a guy who is highly competitive. Every year, I want the church to grow. I want my knowledge to grow. I want my influence to grow. I want our staff to grow. I want our church plants to grow. I want everything – because I want to win. I don’t want to just be where I’m at. I don’t want anything to be where it’s at. And so for me it is success and drivenness and it is productivity and it is victory that drives me constantly. I – that’s my own little idol and it works well in a church because no one would ever yell at you for being a Christian who produces results. So I found the perfect place to hide. [emphasis added]

And I was thinking about it this week. What if the church stopped growing? What if we shrunk? What if everything fell apart? What if half the staff left? Would I still worship Jesus or would I be a total despairing mess? I don’t know. By God’s grace, I won’t have to find out, but you never know. So we’re going to look for your idols, too. Some questions. Think about it. Be honest with me. What are you most afraid of? What is your greatest fear? See, that probably tells you what your idol is. Sometimes your idol is the thing that you’re scared of not having, not being, not doing. What are you scared of? You scared that you’ll be alone? Are you scared that no one will ever love you? Are you scared that you will be found out that you’re not all that smart? Are you scared that you’ll be stuck in the same dead-end job forever? What are you afraid of?

So that is Driscoll speaking to his ambition for victory and success in general.  Let’s consider what he’s said over the years about a vision for what was once Mars Hill in particular.

God's Work, Our Witness Part 1
Pastor Mark Driscoll
December 04, 2011
about 12:30 in
You know, and I thought, for sure, we’d probably tap out at two hundred. I thought if we can get this
thing to two hundred, that would be amazing.

And I had big vision for more. I put together a forty-page vision statement. I said, “We’re going to
start a school. We’re going to plant churches. We’re going to do a record label.” I had this whole vision, and I handed it out to, like, fifteen people, and they’re like, “Are you kidding me?”[emphasis added]

So I had big dreams. But to be honest with you, man, if we could just get up to two hundred, I thought that would be amazing.

Note the number 200.
From "Seasons of Grace" by Mark Driscoll

In the fourth season, we launched the church in October 1996 at 6pm with an attendance around 200, which included many friends and supporters. The attendance leveled off shortly thereafter, somewhere around 100 adults, and we continued meeting until the Christmas season.

So it would seem that the number that Mark Driscoll said, should Mars Hill reach 200 it would be amazing, was actually about the number of people at the launch of Mars Hill in 1996.  It seems pretty clear that over the last twenty years Mark Driscoll did not (and could not) settle for 200-some people being “enough”. When we consult Mark Driscoll’s 2006 book we can see that his account had it that when there were maybe 50 people he was, as he put it, shooting for the moon:

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2006 by Mark Driscoll
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
ISBN-10: 0-310-27016-2
CHAPTER ONE: Jesus, Our Offering was $137 and I Want to Use it to Buy Bullets
0-45 people

from pages 53-54
So in an effort to clarify our mission, I wrote down on paper the first of what would eventually be many strategic plans. I shot for the moon rather foolishly and decided that our church that was not big enough to fill a bus would plant multiple churches, run a concert venue, start a Bible institute, write books, host conferences, and change the city for Jesus. [emphasis added] I started handing out these goals printed on boring white paper without any graphics, colors, or cool fonts, naively assuming that it would all happen eventually just because it was what Jesus wanted.

To get leaders in place for world domination, I also spent time trying to articulate the vision in my head to good men who would be qualified to rise up as fellow elders-pastors. [emphasis added] So, as Jesus did, I spent time in prayer asking the Father which of his sons should be trained for leadership. The church started as an idea I shared with Lief Moi and Mike Gunn. Lief is a descendant of Genghis Khan and his dad was a murderer, and Mike is a former football player. They proved to be invaluable, except for the occasional moments when they would stand toe-to-toe in a leadership meeting, threatening to beat the Holy Spirit out of each other. Both men were older than I and had years of ministry experience, and they were good fathers, loving husbands, and tough. ...

While we can easily grant the comment about world domination was a joke the comments about a vision for starting a Bible institute, running a concert venue, or forming a record label were still in earnest. There were, in sum, three documentable failed attempts on the part of Mars Hill leadership to start and sustain a music label, discussed at some length over here.

Also of note, with help from The Wayback Machine, is Mike Gunn’s account of the early years of Mars Hill:

The Harambee story is a bit wrapped up in my (Mike Gunn’s) story. The vision began around 1992 as I began to feel the need to plant a church that represented the diversity of God’s creation, as well as a gospel that centered on God’s glory and not our own needs. I was prompted by the Spirit to engage the culture in a more meaningful and direct way, so God decided to send me and my family on an unknown journey to Seattle to begin a campus ministry for athletes at the University of Washington. This began to hone our skills in apologetics, evangelism, and discipleship, creating a desire to reach the next generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At that point, Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland and Mark Driscoll entered our lives. My family began attending Antioch in January of 1994, and we started helping the college group, which was run by Mark Driscoll, at that time, a 23-year-old intern recently graduated from Washington State University. [emphasis added].
It became obvious that we had similar backgrounds and ministry callings, so we began to explore the possibilities of our vision (reaching truly postmodern, post-Christian people for Christ), and it became abundantly clear that we were to begin a new work in the city of Seattle.

With the blessing of Antioch and the exodus of about 30 of the students, Mark, Lief Moi, and I began Mars Hill Church in October of 1996. [emphasis added]
We watched God work His mosaic miracle as He began to put together the matrix that became Mars Hill Church. The church grew to more than 1,200 people in five years, and because of facility limitations at the time, we were running seven services at three different locations in the Seattle area. One of these was Mars Hill South, which began as an evening service in October of 2001 with about 40 people. During that time it became evident that God was calling us to a different work, and that we needed to plant as an autonomous church. Subsequently, as of October 6, 2002, we became Harambee Church and began meeting at the Tukwila Community Center. [emphasis added]

The Harambee site is no longer on line, however, Gunn’s testimony does corroborate Mark Driscoll’s account of seeking out Gunn and Moi to help him work toward what he jokingly called plotting world domination. 

So Mark Driscoll co-founded Mars Hill with older and more experienced men, as he previously recounted the history of Mars Hill.  He also used to claim that David Nicholas was his pastor, per an article on David Nicholas and Mark Driscoll running Acts 29 that was published back in 2000 by Christianity Today. Though at some point the ties were severed Mars Hill had roots in shared ministry, per Mike Gunn’s account, at Antioch Bible Church.  It seems Driscoll did not lack for mentor figures or for ambition when he co-founded what was formerly called Mars Hill Church.  Nor could it be said that he didn’t have ambitions for Mars Hill.  Driscoll has repeatedly indicated the scope of what he wanted Mars Hill to achieve included a record label, a publishing house, a church planting network and eventually a Bible college or seminary.  He has said this so many times in so many contexts since the foundation of Mars Hill in 1996 it’s impossible to take at face value any more recent claims he has made in interviews that he didn’t think anything much would come of planting Mars Hill.

Crucially, by Mark Driscoll’s account when Mars Hill had managed to become a stable church at the dawn of the millennium he felt dissatisfied.  Quoting again from Confessions of a Reformission Rev:

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
350-1,000 people
pages 135-136

A very wise friend who is a successful business entrepreneur, Jon Phelps, [WtH, for more on Phelps] shared an insight with me around this time that was very clarifying. He said that in any growing organization, there are three kinds of people, and only two of them have any long-term future with a growing organization. First, there are people on the rise who demonstrate the uncanny ability to grow with the organization and become vital leaders. Second, there are people who attach themselves to the people on the rise as valuable assistants who rise by being attached to someone else on the rise. Third, there are people who neither rise nor attach to anyone who is rising, and they cannot keep up with the growing demands of the organization. These people fall behind, and the organization can either allow their inability to slow down the whole team or release them and move forward with out them. [emphasis added] This is difficult to do because they are often good people  who have been partly responsible for the success of the organization. But the needs of the organizational mission, not the individual in the organization, must continually remain the priority if there is to be continued success. [emphasis added]

Up until this point, nearly everyone in the church had been connected to me, and I could no longer pull them all up with me. Simply, leaders needed to rise on their own or attach themselves to other people on the rise, or they would have to be let go.

So we made all these difficult decisions, and the church stabilized. Finally, we had facilities, money, men rising up to lead, intentional community housing, a successful concert venue, and a church that seemed organized to us. We had grown a church of one thousand people in a tough urban culture despite massive hardship. With things going so well, I feared we'd get too comfortable, and so I decided it was time to blow it all up, create some strategic chaos, and start over again. [emphasis added]


1,000 to 4,000 people
from pages 140-141

It was a warm spring day and I sat in my office at the church, gazing out the window at large white clouds blowing through a clear blue sky, enjoying our success. I had lost about forty pounds by shifting from the Fatkins to the Atkins diet, had paid off all the personal debts I had accrued as a broke pastor, had fitted up the old home for my family, was getting closer to my lovely wife, was enjoying my three children while looking forward to a fourth, finally owned a vehicle with less than 200,000 miles on it, and was the pastor of one of the largest churches in our city at the age of thirty-one. My eye no longer twitched, I wasn't throwing up from acid reflux, and my vertigo had cleared up.

I was sitting at my new desk, which was the first piece of furniture I had ever owned that was not a donated hand-me down. ... We owned our church building outright and had money in the bank. I had a large staff for a church our size and was sleeping like a Calvinist at nights because things were under control.

On that day I had only a few appointments, with lengthy breaks in between. I decided to walk down to the deli a few blocks away and get a Reuben sandwich on sourdough bread and some fresh air. On the way back, I walked barefoot and remember thinking these simple pleasures had made the day one of the most relaxing and satisfying days I ever had. But by the time I walked back to the church, I realized I was already getting bored. There was no dragon to slay, no hill to charge, no battle to fight, and no foe to conquer. [emphasis added]

It was the winter of 2002, and our church had fought through hell and gone from homeless to one thousand people--a big deal in Seattle. I had nearly killed myself and had gotten the church to the comfort zone.

As I sat at my desk eating my sandwich, I ruminated on a simple talk that Richard DeVos, the founder of Amway, gave at our national Acts 29 conference, in which he explained four simple phases of organizational decline.  ...

So as Mark Driscoll told the story of Mars Hill 2002 in his 2006 book, the church had grown to a thousand attendees and was stable, finally. Fearing the church would be complacent and admitting to boredom, Driscoll recounted that he decided to “blow it all up, create some strategic chaos, and start all over again.”  That was how Mark Driscoll described his decision to re-organize and re-engineer Mars Hill leadership culture in 2002. By the accounts of many former Mars Hill members and leaders the biggest blow up surrounding the leadership culture of Mars Hill was arguably not 2002 but 2007.  Only in the year of Mark Driscoll’s resignation, 2014, did Driscoll concede that the consequences of the 2007 reorganization were far-reaching.  Yet even when he did this his accounts of what happened and why turned out to be variable.

on the Walsh/Robison interview with Mark Driscoll, part 3: Restrucring a church in the wake of a real estate investment gone south, a multisite Plan B, and a marriage that needed some work, revisiting the 2006-2007 re-org of Mars Hill

Randy: And this is the Pacific Northwest, this is not the Bible belt.

Mark: No. This is urban, single, young adults, all kinds of sexual issues, confusion, abuse, baggage and carry-ons -- so lots of stuff going on. We had a governance war at the church that went eight years behind the scenes over who is in charge and how things play out. …
Mark Driscoll’s tossed off summary of Seattle people could be misconstrued as implying he didn’t have his own baggage that he brought with him into the ministry he had at Mars Hill. One of the central themes in Real Marriage was Mark Driscoll’s account of how he was upset at the lack of sex he was having with his wife:

Real Marriage: the truth about sex, friendship and life together
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Thomas Nelson
copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0
PAGES 9-10
Before long I was bitter against God and Grace. It seemed to me as if they had conspired to trap me. I had always been the "good guy" who turned down women for sex. In my twisted logic, since I had only slept with a couple of women I was in relationships with, I had been holy enough, and God owed me. [emphasis added] I felt God had conned me by telling me to marry Grace, and allowed Grace to rule over me since she was controlling our sex life. 

PAGES 14-15
Although I loved our people and my wife, this only added to my bitterness. I had a church filled with single women who were asking me how they could stop being sexually ravenous and wait for a Christian husband; then I'd go home to a wife whom I was not sexually enjoying. [emphasis added]

Is this not the same Mark Driscoll who wrote the following in Real Marriage?:

page 164

... As with many things in marriage, communication is key. When I came to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it's that simple. [emphasis added] For years when I would endure depression, I tried to talk to Grace about it. Her natural inclination was to want to have long talks about our feelings toward each other, and I know that connecting with her like this is important. But sometimes I was just too frustrated and ended up blowing up and hurting her feelings.  The truth was I wanted to have more frequent sex with my wife, and we needed to discuss how that could happen.

A man who by his own account prescribed more sex with his wife to himself as the cure for his moodiness and depression  doesn't seem to be in a great place to talk about all those people in Seattle who had sexual issues.

Yet in spite of having shared at some length his hang ups and resentments surrounding his sex life with his wife in the 2012 book, when talking with Christian celebrities the “baggage and carry-ons” belonged to others?  Wasn’t one of the big revelations of Real Marriage that Grace had a history of having been abused herself? 

In any case, we can set those questions off to the side now that we’ve mentioned them, because what Driscoll described himself as doing in 2002 was to “blow it all up”, introduce some strategic chaos, and start all over again. 

In 2017 it is possible to look back on Mark Driscoll’s 2006 Confessions of a Reformission Rev as a kind of manifesto announcing how and why he was preparing another restructuring or Mars Hill Church in Seattle. It’s possible that with such a manifesto. seemingly spelling out in the final chapters of Driscoll’s 2006 book where he wanted to go, leadership would be on board with the proposed changes. For the most part Mars Hill elders were on board but there were stirrings of tension and trouble. 

One of the first troubles to emerge after Mars Hill bought what became its corporate headquarters building was that zoning and land use restrictions precluded the grand design for the second building in Ballard that Driscoll had announced in Confessions of a Reformission Rev.  The situation was described in 2007 by then Executive Pastor Jamie Munson:

Page 72/145 from Mars Hill: A miracle of Jesus
November 9, 2007
Section: Stewardship
Answers submitted by Pastor Jamie Munson 

Q: What is the status and future plans for the property M.H. owns just north of the Ballard campus?
We purchased the building on 50th with the intention of performing a massive renovation, and by connecting it with our Leary building, to create a large campus in the middle of the city. Since the 50th building dedication, our renovation plans were delayed by our attempt to obtain a change of use permit. During the permitting delay we were gifted a building in West Seattle and undertook renovating and opening that building as our next campus. [emphasis added]  At the time of these changes we communicated this to the members of the church openly and honestly as we wanted to be faithful to the stewardship and generosity of the body. 

Also, each quarter a letter is sent to members, along with their donor statement, urging faithful stewardship and giving updates to vision and building strategies. In addition, Pastor Mark wrote a lengthy letter that was sent to members electronically, and handed out at all campuses explaining the miashift to a multi-campus church before the West Seattle campus opened.  Due to the restrictions and expense of building a single large building in our city our focus has shifted from one large campus to becoming a multi-site church of smaller campuses.  Your elders feel this will enable a more effective and cost-efficient spread of the Gospel throughout Seattle and beyond.  It will still take capital campaigns and the purchasing of facilities but allows us to spread and grow more quickly as Jesus leads. [emphasis added]

We are leasing part of the 50th building to generate some revenue. We are also performing a minor renovation of portions of the building to alleviate our current office and production space needs.  This will eliminate the need for leasing office space for our use.  In addition the property provides some much needed parking relief for our Ballard campus and also needs such as storage.  An average church of our size functions with about 4 times as much square footage as we do with our Ballard campus.  Storage, meeting rooms, office space and parking are greatly needed and this property serves those with purposes in the mean time. Future development options are being considered as well but there are no firm plans for these.  This is further complicated as the city is considering further zoning changes and restrictions in industrial areas of the city.  Until this legislation is decided it hangs property owners up as the future possibilities of the property are unclear.  We are hanging on to the property and using it to the fullest extent possible in the mean time. 

Eventually that building was disposed of by way of deed in lieu of foreclosure. As it became clear the second Ballard building could not be used for its announced purpose Mars Hill leadership scrambled to develop the multi-site model as an alternative. 

This was not, however, the catalyst for what Mark Driscoll described as the “governance war”.  As we saw from Mike Gunn’s account of the earlier years of Mars Hill, the church had been multi-site before, with different pastors preaching at different campuses. What was about to transpire was a multi-site model in which Mark Driscoll was the preaching pastor whose sermons were piped into all the sites. Moreover, the 2005 bylaws that were in place already specified procedures reflecting a multi-site organization. Furthermore, the bylaws at hand provided for majority vote on significant decisions.  In Driscoll’s account in April 2017 the gist of the governance war was over “who is in charge and how things play out.”

When Driscoll described the early days of Mars Hill in a blog post in 2011 at Pastor Mark TV he wrote the following:

For the first five or six years of Mars Hill, I was the only paid pastor on staff and carried much of the ministry burden. I was doing all the premarital counseling and most of the pastoral work as the only pastor on staff.  [emphasis added] This went on for years due to pitiful giving and a ton of very rough new converts all the way until we had grown to about 800 people a Sunday. At one point I literally had over a few thousand people come in and out of my home for Bible studies, internships, counseling, and more. My phone rang off the hook, my email inbox overflowed, my energy levels and health took a nose dive, and I started becoming bitter and angry instead of loving and joyful. It got to the point where either something had to change or I was going to go ballistic and do something I really regretted.  [emphasis added, though note that back in 2011 the extent writings of William Wallace II were not back in the public record]

Through much prayer and study of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that I’d done a poor job of raising up leaders along with me to help care for his church. I was carrying the burden myself and was not doing a good job because it was too much. I needed to transition from caring for all the people to ensuring they were all cared for by raising up elders, deacons, and church members. This spurred me to make some dramatic changes to increase membership and train leaders

Now this account seems to forget everything Mark Driscoll had published in his 2006 book about how he reached out to Mike Gunn and Lief Moi to help him co-found Mars Hill.  Nevertheless, the later 2011 Driscoll account is still informative in a way, it told of how Mark Driscoll was basically running Mars Hill by himself and he wasn’t up to the task and needed elders to help.  This might imply that Mark Driscoll saw the history of Mars Hill Church as being a thing he ran by himself from day one. He could invite or recruit other men to help him run Mars Hill but, perhaps, in the end there was relatively little room to doubt whose baby this was.  So what could the governance conflict, given how we’ve been told there was one, have been about?

If we consult documents from the actual 2007 governance controversy at Mars Hill the controversy featured a pair of terminations, namely of former Mars Hill elders Bent Meyer and Paul Petry.  Formally this was conveyed by Jamie Munson.

Pastor Paul Petry - Grounds for immediate termination of employment
* Continual insubordination and submission to leadership and spiritual authority
* Refusal to Ministry Coaching Program
* Divisive within Mars Hill Student Ministry and undermining of Pastor Adam, Deacons and entire ministry
* Blame shifting to Proxy leadership for misbehavior of children
* Public accusation of Lead Pastor [Jamie Munson] regarding hiding the real bylaw document
* Not following protocol and process for making bylaw comments by contacting church attorney without permission
* Ongoing contentious spirit to leadership regarding changes and direction.

Pastor Bent Meyer - Grounds for Immediate Termination of Employment
* Total lack of trust for Executive leadership and insubordination
* Multiple unfounded accusations from Bent regarding abuse of power, power grabbing and motives of leadership
* Not following protocol and process for making bylaw  comments by contacting church attorney without permission
* Showing unhealthy family favoritism by establishing son Cameron as spokesman for Salts recap meeting
* No communication with elders regarding Cameron's sin and removal of grace group leadership

Some might conclude this is a political move to gain more support for the bylaws as Paul and bent were outspoken critics of the current direction. [emphasis added] This is not the case, the executive team wants to conduct itself in a way that is full of integrity, walking in the light, under full disclosure and in a decisive manner that best serves Jesus and His church through Mars Hill.  If the bylaws don't pass, so be it, we didn't want to wait on what we had determined were necessary and inevitable firings until after the bylaws had been voted into approval because that would have been deceptive. [emphasis added] We made the decision to terminate them now and give them the option to resign or undergo the full investigation. We have a higher value of being men of integrity than playing politics to swing a vote in our favor.

Meyer and Petry were objecting to bylaws that would consolidate the power to make strategic financial decisions and the purchase of real estate into the hands of an executive elder board that could range from three to five men.  Because of these objections Meyer and Petry were considered unfit to be in ministry at Mars Hill and were terminated from their staff positions in later 2007.

There are a number of things that need to be said about Mars Hill governance, concern about conflicts of interest and the role of the acting president of Mars Hill over its history but those may be best addressed later.

Part of the changes in governance involved a functional demotion of co-founding pastor Lief Moi. Although Mark Driscoll did not specify names in a Q&A he gave in February 2008 his lengthy description of how and why a man can’t do ministry with his best friend is worth quoting:

[starting about 36:30]
Q. How do you lead staff who are your best friends?
Do you want the honest answer or should I punt?
... You can't. ... you can't.

I hate to tell you that. ... Deep down in your gut you know if you're best friends and someone works for you that changes the relationship. Right? Because you can fire them. Of course you want to be friends with your elders and the people you work with. I mean, we're a church. I mean you wanna, you NEED to love the people you work with. But one of the hardest things, and only the lead guy gets this. Nobody else on staff even understands what I'm talking about. When you're the lead guy you wear multiple hats. Say it's someone who works with you and they're a good friend. You wear the "Hey, we're buddies" hat. We're friends. We go on vacation. We hang out. We do
dinner. We're friends.

But you also wear the "I'm your boss" hat "You need to do your job or I might have to fire you" hat, and you also wear the "I'm your pastor. I love you, care for you, and I'm looking out for your well-being" hat. Those three hats are in absolute collision. Because how do you fire your friend and then pastor them through it? Right? I mean that is very complicated. I love you, you're fired, can I pray for you? That is a very .. what are we doing? I think if you're going to have your best friends working with you they need to be somewhere else on the team but not under you or the friendship really needs to change.

And what happens is when people are your friend ... I don't think that many do this intentionally but they want you to wear whatever hat is at their best interest at the time. So they didn't do their job, they're falling down on their responsibility, and you talk to them and say, "Look, you're not getting this done." They put on the "hey buddy. Yeah, I've been kinda sick lately and my wife and I are going through a hard time." and they want the friend hat on. And as a friend you're like, "Oh, I'm so sorry, dude." But then you put your boss hat back on and you're like "Yeah, but we pay you and we need you to get the job done."

And then they want you to put the friend hat back on and keep sympathizing.
And you're totally conflicted. ...

I have very good friends in this church. I have elders that are very dear friends, but when you have to do their performance review, when you have to decide what their wage is, when you have to decide whether they get promoted, demoted or terminated it's impossible to do that because you can't wear all three hats at the same time.

First guy I fired, he was a dear friend. A godly man, no moral or doctrinal sin whatsoever, he just wasn't keeping up with what we needed him to do. And it wasn't `cause he didn't try and wasn't working hard. And he had a wonderful wife and a great family and to this day I think the world of this guy.  And if my sons grew up to be like him, I'd be proud. And I'm not critical of this man at all.

But I remember sitting down at that first termination. First I put on the friend hat. I said, "I love you, I appreciate you. I value you." Then I put on the boss hat, "I'm gonna have to let you go. Here's why." And then I put on the pastor hat, "How are you feeling? How are you doing?" And he was really gracious with me and he said, "This is just the weirdest conversation I've ever had." And I said, "Me too, `cause I'm not sure what hat I'm supposed to wear."

Does that make any sense? The best thing is if you have a best friend maybe the best thing to do is not have them work with you.  Or if they do have them work under someone else. And to also pursue good friendships with people outside of your church. Some of my dearest friends today are not at Mars Hill, they're also pastors of other churches. Darrin Patrick is here, Vice-President of Acts 29. I love him. He's a brother. He's the guy I call. ... He's a pastor to me, you know?  Matt Chandler is here. I count as a friend. By God's Grace, C. J. Mahaney, I count as a friend. ...

Jamie Munson is head of the elder board. Jamie Munson is executive pastor. He is legal president of the organization. And for me, to be honest, it was the most freeing, liberating thing I could have dreamed of because now I don't have all that conflict of interest. I can be friends with someone but I don't have to fire them, do their performance review, and decide how much they get paid. It's just too conflicting for me."  [emphasis added]

As we saw in Driscoll’s earlier reference to three kinds of people in an organization, sometimes there are people who are not rising in the organization and are not attached to people who are rising and for the organization to grow they have to be let go or left behind.  Driscoll also wrote in his 2006 book that you have to find out if you have the courage to “shoot your dogs”.  Perhaps the terminations of 2007 could be construed as an attempt on the part of Mars Hill leadership to proverbially shoot their dogs.

The most significant formal decision made in the 2007 period was to change the president of Mars Hill from Mark Driscoll to Jamie Munson, one of the earlier converts under Mark Driscoll’s preaching. Driscoll’s appointment of Munson as executive pastor and president of the organization was presented as liberating circa 2008; it meant that Mark Driscoll no longer had to deal with conflicts of interest.  Whether or not conflicts of interest were actually eliminated may be impossible to assess ten years later in 2017.  What we can establish, however, was that some pastors at Mars Hill had other concerns. Thanks to documents at Paul Petry’s website Joyful Exiles we have access to some documents from the 2007 period in which we can see what some of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer’s concerns were.

In September 2007 Bent Meyer wrote about his concerns that the authority of the Council of Elders was being eroded.  
page 19 of 110…
I am very concerned about eroding any more authority from the Council of Elders. I will speak to this in more detail during the upcoming elders meeting. I am also concerned that the more complicated the organized become, the more authoritarian in style and content communication becomes i.e. the Communications Directive….
Page 20 of 110

To date, governance has been structured on the assumption that Mark would outlive us all, yet the reality is that he will not outlive the organization. In fact, he made it clear that under the right pressure or discouragement he would bale [sic, emphasis added], which means the bylaw have to consider what would happen if the next lead pastor, had different doctrinal leanings and a different mission. To say, proper vetting would sort that out, is not sufficient. People change over time and the man would be following a dynamic promoter. This alone would put huge pressure on him to do what is necessary to draw crowds. The financial shock created by people leaving because Mark no longer preaches will drive MHC in directions that are potentially not wise or good. To say that is unlikely ignores the possibility that a bus or car has Marks name on the grill. [emphasis added]

Here in 2017 we can say definitively that Mark Driscoll has outlived the organization! 

Interestingly, when Mark Driscoll wrote about the termination and trial process later in 2007 he wrote the following:

From "A letter from Pastor Mark Driscoll"
November 8, 2007
page 3 of 145

At the same time I began receiving other lucrative job offers that would allow me to study, preach, and write without all of the administrative duties and burdens for which I am not sufficiently gifted to be responsible for. For the first time in my life, the thought of leaving Mars Hill sounded very relieving. Since I had given ten years of my life to the church and love the people desperately, it was obvious to me that something was deeply wrong that such offers would even be intriguing. … 

Although rank and file members couldn’t have known of Meyer’s email correspondence Mark Driscoll explicitly confirmed that offers to bail on Mars Hill by way of taking lucrative job offers had been made in the 2006-2007 season.

The irony of Meyer’s invocation of a possible bus or car with Mark’s name on the grill is hard to overstate in light of one of Mark Driscoll’s more notorious utterances from October 2007. Meyer’s warning may seem more prescient in 2017 than it might have been in 2007 when he warned that without Mark Driscoll’s persona to draw crowds the financial shock of a mass exodus could be damaging to the stability of Mars Hill. While Meyer’s invocation of a proverbial bus warned that a proverbial bus might run into Mark Driscoll, in the wake of the termination of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry Mark Driscoll would talk about a Mars Hill bus that would run down opposition.
October 1, 2007

... Too many guys spend too much time trying to move stiff-necked obstinate people. I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus and by God's grace it'll be a mountain by the time we're done. You either get on the bus or get run over by the bus (those are the options) but the bus ain't gonna stop. I'm just a, I'm just a guy who is like, "Look, we love ya but this is what we're doin'."

There's a few kind of people. There's people who get in the way of the bus.  They gotta get run over. There are people who want to take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off cuz they want to go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus (leaders and helpers and servants, they're awesome).  There's also sometimes nice people who just sit on the bus and shut up. They're not helping or hurting. Just let `em ride along. You know what I'm saying? But don't look at the nice people who are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, "I need you to lead the mission." They're never going to. At the most you'll give `em a job to do and they'll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that hasn't been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader and so they're never going to lead. You need to gather a whole new core. [emphasis added]

I'll tell you what, you don't just do this for church planting or replanting, you know what? I'm doing it right now. I'm doing it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus. Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They're off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they're unemployed. This will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. [emphasis added]

Note, if you would, the royal “we” in the last paragraph.  We’ll get back to that.

Meyer warned that assuming it would be unlikely that Mark Driscoll would voluntarily leave Mars Hill would be to forget that there might be a bus or a car grill with Mark’s name on it, so to speak.  It’s impossible to know whether or not Meyer’s email was one Mark Driscoll read but the juxtaposition, though it may not mean anything in the end, seems equally difficult to just ignore.  Mark Driscoll made a point of saying that people who wanted to take turns driving the bus needed to be thrown off the bus and that two guys were “under the bus” as of October 1, 2007.
Over what? 

What Driscoll told Walsh and Robison the conflict was about was:

… At the end we had 67 elders in 15 locations in five states, a large percentage of whom I had never met. They wanted to have independent local churches and we were one large church in many locations. So there was an eight-year battle that finally went public the last year and it was very painful for everyone involved [emphasis added], especially the wonderful, dear, generous, amazing people that served and gave and made it all happen.

It is difficult, to put it delicately, to find any evidence in the twenty year history of what was once Mars Hill that there was ever a time in which the local eldership insisted on independent local governance over against central leadership at a formal level.  There may have been tensions from time to time between campuses and central over specific allocations, expenses and resource distributions but neither the 2005 era nor 2007 era bylaws of Mars Hill ever stipulated fully independent local church governance. 

If Mark Driscoll wished to indicate that the eight year conflict he says took place was in any way connected to the governance conflict that included the terminations and trials of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry, that conflict was not made public in “the last year of Mars Hill”; it became a matter for public consideration in March 2012 by way of Paul Petry’s website Joyful Exiles.  Going public two years before World Magazine published word of Mars Hill using Result Source hardly counts as within “the last year” of Mars Hill Church existing as a publicly recognized entity. There’s no way Mark Driscoll could honestly say that the conflict related to the 2007 re-org of Mars Hill finally went public in 2014.

As for the nature of the conflict, Mark Driscoll’s own October 1, 2007 words about the “two guys” suggested he had reason to believe the decision to remove elders such as Meyer and Petry, for instance, was a unanimous and indisputable matter, thoroughly past tense.  The elders were not even in conflict about whether they, as a majority, agreed with the decision made to terminate the employment of Meyer and Petry. 

By 2014, however, many of the elders who presided over the trials of Meyer and Petry came to regret that decision and the entire trial and termination process. 

It’s worth pointing out that among those elders from the 2007 period who signed the letter of confession and repentance all four members of the Elder Investigation Taskforce signed the letter.  For those unfamiliar with the events of 2007 the EIT was tasked with investigating the charges that were made against Meyer and Petry. Procedurally it seemed as though what documentation there was established that the person who made the charges at a formal level was also the person who appointed the EIT, Jamie Munson.  If, as Driscoll claimed in a 2008 Q&A, appointing Munson as president of Mars Hill ensured that Mark Driscoll himself no longer had to deal with conflicts of interest this may or may not have been the case for Munson being able to make charges and appoint a taskforce to investigate the credibility of such charges.  Although the 2007 process found men concluding the charges were legitimate by 2014 a majority of those men concluded the entire process was sinful and wrong.

So if any or all of that were what Mark Driscoll claimed as the core of the now allegedly eight-year war over governance it wasn’t exactly a war, nor could it plausibly be said that it became public only in the last year of Mars Hill.  The controversy surrounding the termination of Meyer and Petry was reported by The Stranger the year it happened, in 2007 in an article called “Fired and Brimstone”.

Back in 2007 the common understanding was that Meyer and Petry were fired for not trusting the executive elders and Petry was accused of accusing the lead pastor (Munson) if hiding the real bylaws.  This seemed to imply, at the time, that it was Jamie Munson who was formulating the bylaws.  However, in a 2013 video Mark Driscoll seemed to state firmly that it was in fact he who rewrote the bylaws and constitution of Mars Hill during the 2007 period.  Originally reported by Warren Throckmorton, here is a transcript of what Driscoll said in a video called “Stepping Up”.  The video itself is no longer available.
transcript of Mark Driscoll statement in a video called "Stepping Up", discussed over at Warren
Throckmorton's blog:

I don’t know what the most courageous thing I’ve ever done is. I know the one thing that was one of the hardest was, the church was growing, it had exploded, it had grown to, I think, maybe six thousand. So it made it one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America in one of the least churched cities, and in a conversation one night it was just up in our bedroom on a couch we were visiting, Grace and I were talking about past relationships and just kind of a casual conversation and we’d been together at that point for maybe seventeen, eighteen years or something. [WtH, i.e. either 2005 or 2006] I mean we’d been together a while between dating and marriage. And she just explained to me a few occasions where she had been sexually assaulted, raped, and abused [prior to my meeting her, (WT's transcript differs from what is presented here and this is punctuation that WtH believes makes more sense of Driscoll's actual words)]. I just broke and I just started weeping, thinking that I had not known that about my wife, and she just said it matter of factly, like she was just reading the script of someone else’s life. And there was no emotion in her, and I could tell she didn’t even really understand what she had just explained. That sort of led to a season of me really getting to know her, and her getting to know her past, and us getting to know Jesus in a deeper way.

It was around that time I could just tell that she’s gonna need me available more.

Emotionally present more, we just had our 5th child. So the timing’s not great. We just decided to go multi-site in video, cause we had outgrown our location and everybody’s looking and all the critics are around and is this gonna make it? A couple of things combined at that season as well, overwork and stress and everything else. I fatigued my adrenal glands, I was in a bad place health-wise, was not sleeping. It was a pretty dark time for me, and I told Grace, “For me to recover, for you to recover, for us to build our friendship, I feel like we’re kind of at that watershed moment where our marriage is gonna get better or it’s gonna get colder, and you’ve really opened yourself up and I need to love and serve you better and pursue you more.”

I said so I got to change the church. I mean all the way down, I have to rewrite the Constitution, bi-laws, I got to let some people go. I have to put in place some hard performance reviews. I’ve got to be willing to lose a lot of relationships, endure criticism, preach less times, hand off more authority, and I said I don’t know if the church is going to make it and I don’t know if I’m going to make it.

I told Grace, I said “I’m going to give it one year, and if it doesn’t get fixed, I’m going to quit, because you’re more important to me than ministry, and I feel like if I quit right now, the church will probably die, and there’s all these thousands of people that met Jesus.” I said “So we’re either going to change it or I’m going to quit, but we’re not going to do this forever and you’re my priority,” and that led to everything that I feared, quite frankly. [emphasis added]

It was really brutal, and I couldn’t tell the story at the time of and here’s why- because Grace is really hurting, and I love her, and I’m broken, and we need to pull back and make some course corrections because it’s Grace’s story to tell, and she wasn’t ready at that point to tell that story, and I had no right to tell that story for her.

And so everybody got to speculate for years what the motive was, “oh he’s power hungry, he’s controlling, he wants to take over, he doesn’t love people, you know he’s just a bully.” And no, it’s actually he’s broken and his wife is hurting and the church is gonna probably literally kill him or put him in the hospital and his wife needs him right now, so he’s gotta make some adjustments. So, you know, by the grace of God, we weathered that storm. [emphasis added]

So by this account Mark Driscoll decided to rewrite the constitution and the bylaws and let some people go all so he could spend more time with his wife, Grace.  But apparently rewriting the constitution and bylaws of Mars Hill to spend more time with Grace did not entail decentralizing power away from a relatively small executive elder board of as many as five to as few as three men.  No, apparently it meant consolidating more formal power in the hands of a newer and smaller executive elder board in 2007. 

Back in 2007 Mark Driscoll wrote about the conflict in the following way:

from pages 3 through 5 of 145
One of the problems was that Mars Hill had essentially outgrown the wisdom of our team and needed outside counsel. The church had grown so fast that some of our elders and other leaders were simply falling behind and having trouble keeping up, which was understandable. To make matters worse, there was a growing disrespect among some elders who were jockeying for and abusing power. The illusion of unity our eldership had maintained over the years was kept in part by my tolerating some men who demanded more power, pay, control, and voice than their performance, character, or giftedness merited. While this was a very short list of men, as elders they had enough power to make life truly painful.
The consensus was that Mars Hill was poorly architected to be a multi-campus, multi-elder, multithousand person church. My administrative gifts had simply reached their capacity and the church needed to be re-organized so that campuses could be led by elder teams to ensure  that our people were best cared for, our doctrine best taught, and our mission best led. This meant that I needed to give up a great deal of power and trust other elders, deacons, and members to care for the church with the same passionate affection that I have for our people.

We interrupt this narrative to point out that the reason Mars Hill embraced the multi-site campus model was because the planned Ballard 2.0 campus announced by Driscoll in Confessions of a Reformission Rev turned out to be impossible. For those who were at Mars Hill in the 2004-2006 period the person Mark Driscoll credited with scouting what became the church corporate headquarters was Jamie Munson.  It could seem that, in the hindsight of 2017, the elder board of Mars Hill had thrown money into a real estate boondoggle;  nothing that Mark Driscoll had publicly announced to the world in his 2006 book as to the way the real estate would be used was looking like it could ever happen; and in the midst of formulating a plan B in the form of a multi-site multi-campus church the bylaws of the time had not accounted for such a possibility. 

There’s just one problem with this proposal, which is simply that the 2005 bylaws that already existed did have provision for local campus leadership board.  But for the moment let’s get back to Driscoll’s 2007 narrative:

The newly formed Executive Elder team began working on proposed new bylaws that would serve as the architecting document for a better Mars Hill. The big issue was empowering our campus pastors to lead elder teams. This would ensure the best care for the people at each campus by being accessible and able to make decisions quickly. [emphasis added] Simply, we could not care for our people across multiple campuses with one large and fast-growing elder team that had to meet to make decisions across campuses many of us had never even attended. So, the bylaws had to be rewritten to break the elders into teams with campus areas of oversight as well as accountability. As an aside, the rewriting of our governing bylaws is something we had done on other occasions throughout the history of Mars Hill, so this was not a new experience.

So if that’s really what was done how could that have led to an eight-year long governance battle behind the scenes?

For anyone who saw the 2005 bylaws a question arises, why on earth would the bylaws need to have been rewritten to empower campus pastors to lead local elder teams? After all, on page 137 of 145 of a document containing the old pre-2006 bylaws there’s explicit language concerning what would functionally be campus eldership:

Site Elder Teams – each site will have a team of elders to pastor and manage the details of the site

So, in fact, it would seem that site-based eldership was already accounted for in the old bylaws.  Between that phrase and Article V in the pre-2007 bylaws campus eldership would seem to have been covered. 

If, however, the problem with the architecture of Mars Hill was that some people felt that a full council of elders having a majority vote prior to the authorization of real estate acquisitions slowed down the ability of executive leadership to acquire real estate to deal with growth,  that would be a very different matter.  A full council of 24 odd elders who had to vote in a majority to approve real estate purchases could slow down attempts to scout out and purchase real estate for a burgeoning multisite model.

Whatever the case was, Driscoll continued to recount the 2007 conflict as follows:

Sadly, it was during the bylaw rewriting process that two of our elders, who curiously were among the least administratively gifted for that task, chose to fight in a sinful manner in an effort to defend their power and retain legal control of the entire church. [emphasis added]This included legal maneuvering involving contacting our attorney, which was a violation of policy, one elder who is no longer with us disobeying clear orders from senior leaders about not sharing sensitive working data with church members until the elders had arrived at  a decision, which has caused much dissension, and that same elder accusing Pastor Jamie Munson, who was the then new Lead Pastor of Mars Hill, of being a deceptive liar in an all-elder meeting with elder candidates present, despite having absolutely no evidence or grounds because it was a lie. This was heartbreaking for me since I have seen Pastor Jamie saved in our church, baptized in our church, married in our church, birth four children in our church, and rise up from an intern to the Lead Pastor in our church with great skill and humility that includes surrounding himself with godly gifted older men to complement his gifts.

How two of roughly two dozen elders could somehow retain legal control of the entire church patently defies comprehension.  We’ve seen from a short excerpt of Bent Meyer’s correspondence he was concerned that the power and authority of the Full Council of Elders not be eroded any further.  There is, as yet, no evidence that either Meyer or Petry even had legal control of the entire church or that either of them wanted entire legal control of the church.  We’ll come back to the question of who would eventually have managerial control of the whole of Mars Hill in due time.

Whether the policy against staff elders talking to the church attorney was explicitly forbidden or an informal expectation has never been very clear. It would seem the whole point of having an attorney available to begin with would be so that leadership could talk to said attorney. But more striking is Driscoll’s assertion that two elders who were least administratively gifted for “that task” of writing or rewriting bylaws were sinfully questioning leadership. 

But if, say, Paul Petry was involved in the drafting of the 2005 bylaws how on earth would his administrative gifts or lack thereof have suddenly become relevant to a 2007 bylaw revision process?  Wouldn’t knowing applicable state law be far more important in drafting bylaws for a non-profit organization than a nebulous lack of what Mark Driscoll described as “administrative” gifting?  In light of Mark Driscoll’s 2013 video claim that it was in fact he who rewrote the church constitution and the bylaws all of this material is largely moot anyway with respect to Munson--because if it was, in fact, Mark Driscoll who rewrote the Mars Hill constitution and bylaws he could have said so back in 2007 to clear up precisely why he believed what two elders allegedly did with respect to Munson was so out of line.   

Driscoll continued with:

To make matters worse, this former elder’s comments came after my more than one-hour lecture in that meeting based on a twenty-three-page document I gave the elders as a summary report about what I had learned from the other pastors I had met with in addition to months of researching Christian movements. I had just explained the cause of the pains we were experiencing as a leadership team as largely tied to our growing number of elders and campuses, as well as ways that my research indicated men commonly respond by sinfully seeking power, money, preference, control, and information as ways to exercise pride and fight for their interests over the interests of the team, church, and mission of Jesus Christ.

The elder who sinned was followed up with following the meeting by a rebuke from a fellow Executive Elder, but repentance was not forthcoming. To make matters worse, some vocal church members ran to that elder’s defense without knowing the facts, made demands upon the elders, acted in a manner that was not unifying or helpful, and even took their grievances public on the Ask Anything comment portion of our main website for my forthcoming preaching series. Of course, this was done under anonymous names to protect their image in the eyes of fellow church members while maligning the elders publicly. Some church members even began accusing the other elders of grabbing power and not caring for the best interests of our people, which is nothing short of a lie and contradictory in every way to the entire process we were undertaking. It broke my heart personally when amidst all of this, a member asked me on behalf of other members if the elders really loved our people. Now having given roughly half my life to planning for and leading Mars Hill Church, the questioning of my love and the love of our elders, some of whom even got saved in our church, for our people was devastating.

Today, I remain deeply grieved by and for one man, but am thrilled that what is best for Jesus and all of Mars Hill has been unanimously approved by our entire elder team because I do love Jesus and the people of Mars Hill. [emphasis added] Furthermore, my physical, mental, and spiritual health are at the best levels in all of my life. Now having joy and working in my gifting I am beginning to see what a dark and bitter place I once was in and deeply grieve having lived there for so long without clearly seeing my need for life change.

That was how Driscoll put things in 2007.  Here in 2017 there no longer is a Mars Hill Church.  Note that Driscoll was thrilled to report that “what is best for Jesus and all of Mars Hill has been unanimously approved by our entire elder team because I do love Jesus and the people of Mars Hill.” 

So how, exactly, was that the start of an eight year conflict within Mars Hill over governance? Cumulatively Mark Driscoll’s own testimony suggests that once two guys were off the bus and under the bus that there was no conflict, at least not in 2007.

In sum, whatever Mark Driscoll may now sincerely believe was the case about Mars Hill over the last ten years in the narrative he shared with Walsh and Robison in 2017 about an eight-years long governance battle, that narrative not only cannot be squared with outside testimony from other Mars Hill leaders from the past, it can’t even be squared with Mark Driscoll’s own previous testimony regarding the nature of governance conflicts in the past from the years in which conflict was known to have happened.  Since this is the same Mark Driscoll who went on record having told a reporter for Christianity Today in a 2012 that he and Grace were both virgins when they met each other in direct contradiction of what he explicitly said about them within the first dozen pages of his 2012 book Real Marriage, people may be forgiven if they think there is reason to wonder about the reliability of Mark Driscoll’s recollection of events.   

If things from 2007 seem impossible to correlate clearly with Mark Driscoll’s 2017 narrative to Walsh and Robison, things are not necessarily clearer on the subject of 2014 but that is a subject all its own.